WALLER 6 UPDATE: November 20, 2021
The teenage son of Jason and Jennifer Arnold, who, with their permission, was operating his parents’ F-250 diesel truck when he plowed into our 6 clients while they were riding their bicycles on September 25th, 2021 in Waller, Texas, was released to his parents on Thursday afternoon (11/18/21) after being held in custody for 10 days in a juvenile detention center.
The juvenile criminal system in Texas generally reserves beds in its detention centers for individuals who are flight risks, do not have parents or guardians to closely supervise them, and/or have a documented history of other dangerous criminal behaviors.
While we wholly agree that this driver should not be able to threaten public safety or cause anyone else any potentially life-threatening harm, we also recognize that the special prosecutor and Waller County D.A. do not have the ability to change the system or bend its rules. Because the appropriate authorities and officials have been able to do their jobs without interference, we are glad to report that Charlie (Huber Thomas & Marcelle, LLP / Bike Law Texas), Peter (Wilborn Law, LLC and Founding Attorney of Bike Law National), and I still feel satisfied with their efforts and the integrity of their criminal investigation.
Upon his release to his parents’ custody yesterday afternoon, the court has ordered the Arnolds’ son to surrender his driver’s license and comply with a 6-6 curfew. He must not violate any provision of his release while awaiting trial and must not operate a motor vehicle or leave the country without court approval.
We will continue to share updates in real time as we are able. At this time we do not have a schedule for the impending criminal proceedings.
On behalf of our clients who continue to express their gratitude for your ongoing concern, we would like to thank you for your unwavering support. We are honored to be part of such a committed and resilient community and greatly appreciate you all.
Please enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay safe,
Rachael Maney, National Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WALLER 6 UPDATE: November 8, 2021
SIX COUNTS OF FELONY ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON
The 16 year old son of Waller, TX’s Jason and Jennifer Arnold who used his parents’ black F-250 to plow into our 6 cyclist clients and friends who were more than 70 miles into a training ride in preparation for Ironman Texas on the morning of Saturday, September 25th, 2021 on Business 290 East in Waller, Texas, has officially been INDICTED AND TAKEN INTO CUSTODY ON SIX COUNTS OF FELONY AGGRAVATED ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON — one for each of the people he almost killed with his reckless and violent behavior behind the wheel.
Our clients have been eagerly awaiting this confirmation from the Waller County District Attorney’s office for what feels like an eternity. We have been eagerly awaiting this news for what feels like an eternity. And while it’s been challenging to remain quiet during these 6 long weeks of waiting, we cannot express enough admiration for the 6 victims Bike Law represents in this horrific crash.
THE WALLER SIX
First, we are happy to report that our clients continue to make advancements (no matter how small) on the long road of physical recovery ahead, and that their reasonable natures and respect for the process have allowed the criminal investigators and us to do our jobs. Our clients have shown us nothing short of remarkable patience and courage over the last month and a half.
They deserve recognition and have graciously asked that we thank you all for the outpouring of continued concern and support.
PROSECUTORS STEP UP
We share in our community’s frustration, and understand with no confusion why cyclists who ride in Waller, across Texas, and all over our country have been skeptical and conditioned to expect little if not nothing from law enforcement and prosecutors in response to this incident and the overwhelming number of other bicycle crashes caused by negligent, aggressive, and criminal motorists.
However, representing attorney Charlie Thomas (Huber Thomas & Marcelle, LLP / Bike Law Texas), his co-counsel Peter Wilborn (Wilborn Law, LLC / Founding Attorney of Bike Law National), and I believe that elected Waller County D.A. Elton Mathis and Special Prosecutor Warren Diepraam have done their jobs to deliver what is a real step towards justice given what’s possible and what’s not within the Texas criminal justice system- a system that does not favor people on bikes and generally provides far too much room for police and other prosecutors to endorse the marginalization of cyclists and other vulnerable road users through their historic inaction.
The driver who caused this harm is under the age of majority per Texas’ penal code. Juveniles are excluded from many elements of accountability that are available within Texas’ criminal justice system for adults.
In Texas, criminally charging someone under the age of 17 as an adult requires a process culminating in certification by a County Court at Law judge, not simply the willingness of a prosecutor to file such charges at their sole discretion. Like we experience every day within the civil silo of our pursuit for cycling justice, accountability is rarely ever instantaneous or swift; it’s more like a pipeline in which arriving at the best possible outcome requires the opening of one valve at a time to allow the passage from one step to the next.
The Waller County D.A. and Special Prosecutor are neither a judge nor a jury. However, they did take their criminal investigation to an empaneled Grand Jury last week to fight for our clients, for justice, and the ability to open this valve in the long process ahead to hold this driver accountable for the crimes with which he’s been charged when he struck 6 humans who simply wanted to ride their bicycles without being terrorized by the driver of an almost 8,000 lb diesel truck.
The criminal “investigation” which began under the authority of the city of Waller’s police, led by Officer Charles Mistric under the supervision of Waller Police Chief Bill Llewellyn, was quickly taken over by Special Prosecutor Warren Diepraam at the direction of the county’s D.A.’s office when Mr. Mathis was alerted to the crash on social media and how the city of Waller PD was failing to respond appropriately.
DRIVER’S CRIMINAL LAWYER’S RED HERRING
Then, in early October, Jason and Jennifer Arnold retained Rick DeToto, a local Texas criminal defense attorney, to represent their son. DeToto made a red-herring statement to the public when he declared that his client “is a young man in high school with college aspirations. He’s a very new and inexperienced driver. This was a serious accident but did not involve any criminal intent. He immediately called 911, helped with the injured and cooperated with police.” (We do not know if DeToto still/currently represents the Arnolds’ son in this matter.)
We still do not understand the following about DeToto’s statement:
- If this crash was the unintended consequence of a “very new and inexperienced driver,” then why aren’t all 16 year old drivers of diesel trucks “rolling-coal” and causing this kind of catastrophic harm?
- Who physically modified the engine of the Arnolds’ diesel truck which they permitted their son to operate to assault cyclists and crash into our clients? (We understand that in order to “roll coal,” engine modifications must first occur in one of two ways: 1) Increase the fuel flow of the mechanical diesel pump. This way, when the operator presses the gas pedal, the smoke billows from the exhaust pipes, usually for a limited amount of time, or 2) By restricting the airflow to the engine’s intake. The toxic, blinding, smoke is the result of incomplete combustion, therefore removing oxygen will cause the desired effect.)
- How did such a “new and inexperienced driver” know how to roll coal? Was DeToto implying that he learned without experience?
- Who told him that his client “immediately called 911?” We have been unable to locate any evidence that the driver himself ever made that call. (911 calls are public record, available through FOIA requests to their custodial agencies.)
- We know that the driver did, however, call his father to come rescue him from the destruction he caused while operating the truck his parents allowed him to drive, even though, according to DeToto, their son is “very new and inexperienced.”
- Much to the contrary of what DeToto would have liked people to believe in his limp and premature attempt to victimize his client and trivialize the danger he poses to others with whom he shares the road, the Arnolds’ son stepped out of the truck he used to plow our clients down and actually asked one of them NOT to call 911 as they lay broken on the hot asphalt by the front driver’s side tire of the smoking F-250.
- It was not until another one of our clients issued a blood curdling cry for someone to call 911 that the driver’s adult passenger decided to alert emergency responders.
- What “help” did DeToto’s client issue to our clients at the scene of the crash? We are not aware of any at all. In fact, all eye-witness testimony reports the same thing: no help was rendered by the driver in any way.
Rick DeToto continued to prattle on by saying, “The police did an investigation at the scene. This included speaking with eyewitnesses to the accident. After their investigation, they decided not to charge my client and did not even issue him a traffic ticket. Clearly, they determined a crime had not occurred.”
Though DeToto’s first two sentences above are as absurd as most of the other things he’s said publicly in response to this horrific crash, we couldn’t agree more with the last two sentences and “clearly” understand just how much injustice Waller Police Chief Bill Llewellyn will allow when things like this happen in his jurisdiction. At least there is no factual dispute about exactly what occurred for the short time this “investigation” was in the hands of the city of Waller’s Police Department.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: “CASE NOT HANDLED APPROPRIATELY”
In response to DeToto’s statement, Waller County elected D.A. Elton Mathis said that, “This case was not handled appropriately by the investigating agency. PERIOD. Despite being encouraged by the Texas Department of Public Safety to treat the scene as a crime scene and to contact the D.A.’s Office for advice on how to proceed, the investigating agency chose not to do so.”
THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE
Mathis then indicated that this case could be presented to a Grand Jury who would then decide whether or not to indict the Arnolds’ son for the destruction he caused while behind the wheel of their diesel truck that day.
Justice should never allow for one’s personal beliefs or biases to influence due process. And justice should never be blind or available only to certain groups of people in certain places at certain times. When Mathis stated that, “All sides of this matter (the juvenile, the adult passenger, their families, the victims and their friends and families) can be assured that this case is not being swept away as the days pass,” and that “…this will not be a lynching and likewise, it will not be a case of small county politics making problems just go away,” Bike Law understood and appreciated the integrity of the work we believe was done to arrive at the place we are today.
We’ve prepared ourselves and The Waller 6 to expect it all: relief, dissatisfaction, and a myriad of opinions to be expressed in response to this update. What we continue to ask of everyone is an understanding that (even in Waller, TX) when things feel like they’re taking more time than they “should,” the possibility exists that something right and good, not more disappointing ambivalence to justice, is the cause for such delay.
Bike Law is honored to represent The Waller 6, will continue our dogged fight for justice for them and all people on bikes, and we look forward to providing more information and further updates as we are able.
Thank you for your support, and please stay safe.
Bike Law is a network of independent law firms across the country who represent injured cyclists and pursue cycling justice.